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Touch to Begin

Inspiration for interaction with campus digital signage installations
University Business, July/August 2012

Touch screens are taking over—and people expect to see them. In the years since Apple first popularized the technology with the iPhone in 2007, it has become almost rare to meet someone who doesn’t own a touchscreen smartphone or tablet. This is becoming even truer among the college-bound and younger generation. Take, for example, the viral YouTube video showing a toddler who could easily operate an iPad, but seemed perplexed when she touched the pages of a magazine and nothing happened.

Just when college and university leaders thought their campuses were up-to-date with the most cutting-edge digital signage technology, in stepped touch screens and other interactive elements that are turning the industry upside down.

In the Touch Panel Market Analysis report released last year by DisplaySearch, the market research firm predicted that touch screen revenue would reach $13.4 billion by the end of 2011 and $23.9 billion by 2017. The mobile and tablet market are behind most of the growth, but these numbers reflect the direction the touch screen phenomenon is going.

The takeaway? People see a screen and want to interact with it. Colleges and universities are catching on, finding innovative ways to let their community members do just that.

Among the most common and advantageous uses are wayfinding and donor recognition, shares Spencer Graham, manager of operations of West Virginia University Information Stations responsible for behind-the-scenes operations of WVU’s digital signage network. WVU was an early adopter of digital signage, creating a 10-sign network for emergency messaging in 2005 immediately following the Virginia Tech tragedy. That network now includes more than 100 screens, including interactive ones, across four campuses.

“Higher education is a new vertical market [for interactive digital signage] as far as I’m concerned, because you’re not selling like you are in retail,” says Graham. “This is an area that digital signage has a very specific usage in. Wayfinding certainly comes in. We also see donor walls as a big thing, because you can only put so many brass plaques on the wall.” And for all of WVU’s interactive digital signage installed and to be installed, “the functionality we’re planning on leveraging makes for a very pleasant experience for whoever is interacting with our signage,” from students, to faculty, to visitors to the university.

Above are some examples of how campuses across the country are leveraging interactive digital signage.

Tell us about an installation on your campus by sending photos and a description to